Search dog Cassidy has completed 200 hours of training.
There isn’t much that fazes 3-year-old Cassidy. After a cross-Atlantic journey, she not only started a new life in Rim Country — but set about searching for lost hikers and missing campers. But Cassidy hasn’t wavered. She didn’t even bark at visiting the Los Angeles County morgue recently as part of her advanced training.
She is probably one of the most important members of the Gila County Mounted Posse team and she doesn’t even speak English.
After 200 hours of training, European-born Cassidy has officially joined the Mounted Posse and is ready to put her skills and nose to the test.
The purebred German shepherd from Slovakia recently went through several weeks of training with her handlers, the Mounted Posse’s Sergeant-at-Arms Wyman Kendall and Vice Commander Gary Chitwood in Southern California and in Payson.
The group attended training at Adlerhorst International Inc., a 7.5-acre facility in Western Riverside County.
Adlerhorst is known for its work with police service dogs and is one of the largest private police dog schools in the world, according to its Web site.
At school, Cassidy not only learned how to search out missing hikers, but also to search for cadavers. Chitwood and Wyman said it is rare for a dog to learn both commands, since it is usually considered difficult for a dog to switch between searching for living people and bodies.
Cassidy seems to have no problem handling both. “It is just incredible to watch her work,” Chitwood said.
Wyman agreed. “I don’t know if we could have been gifted with a better dog,” he said. “She fits our group so well.”
The posse, a group of more than 45 volunteers, searches on horseback for lost and missing hikers throughout northern Arizona.
Since the posse formed in 2010, the group has helped on dozens of missions, including hauling injured hikers out of Fossil Creek, looking for lost hikers and recovering bodies.
Last summer, they helped on four cadaver searches around the state.
Cassidy is now the third cadaver search dog in the state, the men said.
When the weather heats up and people get back on the trails, Cassidy and the rest of the posse are ready to get out there and help.
The group is wholly supported by donations, and donors helped pay for Cassidy and her care.
Chitwood and Wyman said they are so thankful for all the work of posse volunteers and donors.
They thanked Gregg Yerrington, Jack Sou and David Reaver with Adlerhorst for their training expertise.
For more information on the Mounted Posse, visit gilacountymountedposse.com.